Interest in probiotics, which are found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir and miso, has expanded to their potential role in fighting a number of health conditions, including fatty liver disease. Commonly referred to as "friendly bacteria," probiotics are living microorganisms that normally reside within the digestive tract, mouth and vagina. These beneficial critters may promote health in a number of ways, including suppressing pathogenic bacteria growth and immune stimulation. Eating yogurt may provide benefits if you have fatty liver disease, but talk to your doctor first.
A Nationwide Problem
With rates of overweight and obesity continuing to climb, fatty liver disease is a nationwide health concern. It occurs when an abnormal amount of fat accumulates in your liver cells. Risk factors include being overweight or having diabetes, insulin resistance or high triglycerides. Regularly consuming excess alcohol, toxins, certain drugs and inherited metabolic disorders can cause fatty liver as well. When it's caused by something other than alcohol, it's referred to as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Probiotics and Liver Disease
Microorganisms in the intestinal tract play a significant role in liver cell function, according to a clinical review in the journal "Hepatitis Monthly" published in February 2013. The review found that changes in the type and amount of microorganisms residing in the intestinal tract can result in fatty liver and other harmful liver effects. Based on a review of current clinical evidence, the authors concluded that probiotics are a safe, inexpensive strategy to improve various liver diseases.
Yogurt and Fatty Liver
Probiotics control the growth of pathogenic bacteria, some of which can have harmful effects on liver cell function. Researchers investigated the effects of eating probiotic yogurt in adults with nonalcoholic fatty liver. Participants ate yogurt daily for eight weeks. Yogurt consumption improved liver enzymes and lowered total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein -- a bad form of cholesterol. The authors concluded that probiotic yogurt may prove useful in managing nonalcoholic fatty liver risk factors. The study was published in the December 2014 edition of the "Journal of Dairy Science."
Not all yogurts contain probiotics. Check the ingredients label for the words "live and active cultures." Some brands also list the strains of probiotics in the yogurt, with the most common being Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Some yogurts carry the National Yogurt Association's "Live & Active Cultures" seal, which means the brand has met the standards for probiotics and contains a significant amounts of live and active cultures. The seal is voluntary, though, so some yogurts may have live cultures and not carry the seal. For best nutrition, choose low-fat, low-sugar varieties.